An Urban Oasis, A Sustainable Gathering Place

Vertical Garden

The centerpiece of the plaza is a three-story, 208-foot long vertical garden along the entire west wall of The Sheldon’s Emerson Center building, designed by Andrew Colopy of Colbalt Office, in collaboration with Ben Gilmartin. The garden’s sculptural wall is constructed from steel panels, laser-cut in an organic filigree pattern, with steel and fabrication generously donated by Kathy and Robert Williams, Jr. of Williams Patent Crusher.

The project’s landscape architect, DLANDstudio, Inc., in collaboration with Scott Woodbury, director of Shaw Nature Reserve (part of Missouri Botanical Garden), have designed the garden to flourish year-round, with native Missouri vines chosen specifically to survive St. Louis’ hot summers and harsh winters.

The plants will grow up and onto the steel panels, creating an architectural sculpture and urban green space. LED lights are placed in over 200 connecting nodes to create a magical effect at night when the vertical garden is lit.


Environmental Impact

The garden was constructed using environmentally friendly design. Space saving and sustainable, the vertical garden and surrounding rain gardens and landscaping add green space to The Sheldon’s urban environment. Bio-retention areas and bio-swales, made possible by a Project Clear grant from the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District, will divert storm water from the city sewer system.

Vertical gardens (or green walls) have been shown to filter air pollutants and absorb CO2, improving the air quality of its surroundings. The use of native plants increases these benefits, with the additional outcomes of eliminating the use of pesticides and fertilizers, and providing efficient water usage — the garden in Steward Family Plaza is expected to divert almost half a million gallons of storm water per year. Green walls also help lower the “urban heat island” effect, and act as natural insulators, leading to decreased energy use to heat and cool the attached building.


Enhanced Signage

The plaza will include a new 10-foot tall sculptural sign on the north end of the plaza near The Sheldon’s street level entrance, designed by Cobalt Office, in collaboration with Benjamin Gilmartin. The Sheldon sign is made from 510 individual layers of ¼ inch stainless steel, each fabricated directly from a digital model by waterjet cutting. When stacked, individual layers come together to give the appearance of volumetric, 3-sided letters that read, “The Sheldon.”

The improvements also include a promotional video screen facing Washington Boulevard in front of the glass bridge that connects the concert hall with the Emerson Center building.


Gathering Spaces and Sculpture

In addition to public benches and grassy knolls for lounging or resting, the plaza will also include two named gathering areas — the Engelhardt Family Terrace made possible by the Engelhardt Family Foundation, and the Centene Gallery made possible by a grant from the Centene Charitable Foundation. A sculpture, “Steve Wondering if He Could Actually Walk,” a work created in 2015 by Portuguese sculptors João Maria Gusmão and Pedro Paiva, on permanent loan from the Gateway Foundation, will also be featured.


Design Team

The design team for Steward Family Plaza was led by Benjamin Gilmartin, one of the top designers and architects in the country, with experience renovating Lincoln Center Plaza and the Museum of Modern Art, both in New York; Public Media Commons in St. Louis; and many other important projects around the world. Gilmartin assembled a team of experts including Andrew Colopy of Cobalt Office as Project Designer, Randy Burkett of Randy Burkett Lighting, Susannah Drake of DLANDstudio as landscape architect, and local architect Fred Powers of Powers Bowersox, all with impressive credentials on many similar projects. General contractor for the plaza is S. M. Wilson & Co.


Steward Family Plaza Donors

Steward Family Plaza is made possible by generous leadership support from The Steward Family Foundation and World Wide Technology, Inc.; and Kathy and Robert M. Williams, Jr. and their children Elizabeth Ashley Williams and Robert M. Williams, III; Engelhardt Family Foundation; Wilfred and Ann Lee Konneker; Centene Charitable Foundation; Emerson; Sam and Marilyn Fox Foundation; Lotta and Jeff Fox; David and Barbara Gifford; William T. Kemper Foundation – Commerce Bank, Trustee; Kenneth and Nancy Kranzberg; Sally Levy; Richard and Patricia Marriott; MSD Project Clear; Michael and Noémi Neidorff; Mary Pillsbury Wainwright; Emily Rauh Pulitzer; Regional Arts Commission; and many other generous donors.


Watch the plaza construction unfold! Watch a time lapse video of the entire process, or click on the date and time to pull up a calendar to view particular dates and times.